National Security

Sen. King calls out Biden administration on drugs crossing southern border

Greg Nash

Sen. Angus King (I-Maine) pressed senior Biden administration security officials on drugs crossing the southern border on Wednesday, calling its current response “inexcusable” and asking “who’s in charge.”

“We need to think about it as an attack. It’s an attack on our country just as sure as it’s an attack that came from Russia or Iran or anywhere else,” King said during a hearing of the Senate Armed Service Committee on security cooperation in the Western Hemisphere. 

“We’ve got to change our imagination here. This is an attack, and we got to put the resources on it,” he added. 

King said the United States does not currently make use of enough intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) to stop drugs from crossing the border. 

“Here is what’s bothering me. If that was a terrorist cell in Latin America killing 100,000 Americans a year, we wouldn’t be sitting here talking about not enough ISR and allocating it. I’m absolutely sick of this,” he said.    

“Even with the limited ISR we have, we are only interdicting 25 percent of the shipments that we know of. … That’s inexcusable,” he added. 

“Who’s in charge? What individual in the United States government is in charge of stopping drugs coming from Latin America?” King asked the officials testifying before the committee. 

James Saenz, deputy assistant secretary of Defense for counternarcotics and stabilization policy, responded that government agencies work together on the issue. 

King asked whom President Biden should talk to if he wants to keep drugs out of the country, to which Saenz said the president has a director of national drug control policy. 

King reiterated that “there isn’t anyone, is there,” dealing with drugs crossing the border, before Saenz said that the Department of Homeland Security is on the job but can’t do it alone. 

Melissa Dalton, assistant secretary of Defense for homeland defense and hemispheric affairs, responded to King’s questioning by saying that the movement of drugs into the country was indeed a national security threat.

“It’s an absolute tragedy that hundreds if thousands of Americans are dying and have lives that are being devastated by the phenomena and it is a national security threat, plainly,” Dalton said.

However, she added there are not enough resources to cover most global threats.

“There is not enough ISR to cover China, Russia, Ukraine, Iran. It is a global challenge,” she said.  

Dalton said the department is committed to combating the movement of drugs across the border through building foreign relationships and “working with our regional partners to strengthen their own capacity to address the transitional criminal organizations that are bringing these drugs to our country.”

King added that a solution can be found. 

“What’s the problem? It seems to me that’s a very solvable problem. It’s just math,” he said.

Tags Angus King Drug smuggling Joe Biden U.S. southern border

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